Reclaiming D. H. Lawrence: Contemporary Writers Speak Out

Reclaiming D. H. Lawrence: Contemporary Writers Speak Out

Reclaiming D. H. Lawrence: Contemporary Writers Speak Out

Reclaiming D. H. Lawrence: Contemporary Writers Speak Out


"Puzzled by the catastrophic decline of D. H. Lawrence's reputation in academe, and by the anger of students toward Lawrence and his work, Gary Adelman wrote to dozens of working writers to learn their opinions of Lawrence. Over a hundred poets and novelists responded. Their overwhelming gratitude and debt to Lawrence as a precursor and literary giant illustrate the difference between the ways writers and academic critics read and think about literature. Prior to the mid-eighties, Lawrence sat in the same pantheon as Joyce and Eliot. Due to gender politics and the rise of political correctness, as well as to Lawrence's vulnerability on the issue of fascism, he was virtually pushed off the syllabus at most major English and American universities. He became passe in academia, only present as an absence or as a distasteful caricature." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved


This book tries to make sense of what seems to me a bizarre anomaly: academe's current antagonism for D. H. Lawrence on the one hand, and on the other, his continuous importance to writers and their high regard for him. The evidence of writers accumulated from my correspondence with over forty novelists and just under sixty poets would seem to justify a stature Lawrence has not had in academe for twenty years. Students cannot get past his ideology; most professors have washed their hands of him for the same reason. I know this from over thirty years of teaching at the university level.

Lawrence is seldom (if ever) taught as a major figure to whom a semester is devoted, is only marginally included in survey courses, and only here and there do one or another of his four “renowned” novels make their way onto a syllabus.

In a survey of on-line course descriptions, book lists, and syllabi of the top twenty-three Ph.D.-granting English departments in the United States (ranked by U. S. News and World Report in 1998), Lawrence's position among his peers as of spring 2001 is as follows: he appears once as a major author to whom a semester-long class is devoted and a second time in a triad with George Eliot and Thomas Hardy. (James Joyce appears ten times, Woolf four.) In courses on British authors of the modernist period, Lawrence frequently is not mentioned. One or another of his classic novels is taught at twelve of the twenty-three schools, usually in survey courses; as a poet, he is, with one exception, neglected. The on-line survey reinforces an impression of diminished stature, precarious by comparison to the position he held in the academy between 1960 and 1980, when he stood on the same top step of the pantheon as Joyce.

The remark forwarded to me by an acquaintance, a Lawrentian who teaches at Alfred University, is discouraging. He writes of “the deadest Lawrence seminar [for undergraduate majors] I have ever taught in my life.… [E]ither reading ability has gone down or else . . .

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